Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Practice Presence - Part 3

In 4 days I will be on my way to the United Kingdom to spend two months in a Bible college, then two more weeks getting a taste of Europe. How could I help living zestfully on that kind of adventure? How could I not be fully present?

The same way I forget to be present in the small adventures of everyday life.

Dear Diary: 21/10/06 by kiwanja
Dear Diary: 21/10/06, a photo by kiwanja on Flickr.

Each week I am blessed: conversations with friends, a special ice cream cone, a startling passage from a book. Each time I make the choice, "Will I be present, or will I obsess about past experiences, the calories, or the next exciting insight?"

One way I choose to be present is to journal. In one sense this activity means ignoring the experiences around you as you record the past—that's not what I'm talking about. What I mean is using your gift, whether that be writing or drawing or sculpting or composing or whatever, and using it to capture the place or state of mind you are in.

As you've probably guessed, I love to write. If I were to journal about this moment to practice being present, it would look something like this:
Rolling down the road in the dark between jobs, I hear Aaron's music leaking out from his earbuds, the rhythmic thumping of old pavement, and watch the glare of pink and blue streetlights slip over my skin. Holding this slim iPod and typing away on the minuscule keyboard, I marvel at the Promethean marvel of modern technology. Mom and Dad chat in the front seat. They're happy tonight; tired, but happy.
There, more or less, I've captured the sights and sensations of riding in the car with my family on a typical Tuesday night. It's short and simple, but helps me pay attention to what is really going on.

Take a minute to free-write about what you're going through right now, or draw a picture, or sing a song. Look at yourself from a long way away, and take it all in. Practice presence by getting a 360° view of your situation. Enjoy this time for what it is, not for what it might be.

While I'm on this trip I'm going to keep looking for zest and purpose in new, strange places, and share what I learn. If you want to keep up with the nitty-gritty of my European travels, check out

Monday, April 1, 2013

Practice Presence - Part 2

Some days finish with a satisfied sigh, others with a groan of regret. How do we infuse every day, even the meaningless ones, with zest? How can we recognize even the most mundane minutes for the gift they are?

Addo Elephant Park, South Africa by exfordy
Addo Elephant Park, South Africa, a photo by exfordy on Flickr.

I'm not an expert at this—not by far—but I have a thirst to learn how it works, and I've been experimenting. I've gathered a few insights from my lessons, rather like picking up scattered puzzle pieces and trying to find the hidden picture.

As I drove down the highway in my parents' Explorer today, I rolled the windows down. Unusual for me, but it was a balmy spring afternoon—the first in weeks—and it also helped that the inside of the vehicle smelled like gasoline. Hence the gale-force winds whipping through the cab. But it was all for the best, because if I hadn't broken the usual barrier between myself and the outside world, I wouldn't have realized how much we miss with the windows up.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die...."

- John 11:25-26 

Original photo: Easter Lily, a photo by ヘザー heza on Flickr.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Practice Presence - Part I

How many times have you come to the end of a day and thought, "Whew, I've been so busy!" only to realize that you can't remember a single thing you did? 

LIVE CLARITIN by marc falardeau
LIVE CLARITIN, a photo by marc falardeau on Flickr.

That day planner staring you in the face with all its unchecked boxes, those unwashed dishes in the sink, that unfinished paper, the unpracticed piano, the unwalked dog, the unpainted masterpiece, the unlaughing voice—they all haunt us at the end of the day. Depending on your expectations, you could have many of these grim reminders, or just a few. If you're human, and especially if you're a goal-oriented kind of human like me,  you probably have more than a few lingering in the undusted corners of your world.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Extravagant Takers

Grace is such a difficult concept for me. It's beautiful, liberating, empowering, and magnificent--but it's very, very hard.

The other night as I was working, a phrase came to mind, one that would not go away. And it lit up a warm and wonderful fire within me. "We need to be extravagant takers."

Obdurated seashell, a photo by WhoCaresNo1NoesMe on Flickr.

Thanks to Emily Freeman's amazing book, Grace for the Good Girl, I was introduced to the work of Brennan Manning. This remarkable man seems to have found his calling in liberating people from their self-imposed bonds of pride and legalism. In his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, he talks about God's "furious love" that pursues us at all costs. He sounds the horn of deliverance for the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out, those of us who are desperately trying to live the Christian life on our own.

The other night as I was working, a phrase came to mind, one that would not go away. It lit up a warm and wonderful fire within me. "We need to be extravagant takers."


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